Dramatic Winter Sunset
This area of BC has had significant pine tree loss due to the mountain pine beetle. Luckily, this property is a mixed stand with fir, spruce and pine. Sadly, virtually all of pine have been killed. So far, I have removed about 30 trees - but still have another 30 to go. The result is that the land is much more open and the surviving trees appear healthier. The clear spaces are rapidly being filled in with grasses and other shrubs, much to the delight of the local deer and rabbit population.
I lived on the property throughout the fall and winter 2007. That was a challenge as there presently is no power, running water or sewage. Using the little outhouse is always an eye-opener when the temperatures drop below 0C. I received a quote from the power utility company to install electrical power, but the cost was $33,000 plus land clearing expenses. That was to provide power to the road at the end of my property - I would still have to find an electrician to install poles - or trench - lines to the cabin. So, for the fall and winter I used a generator to charge 440 Ahrs of deep cycle batteries. This was not very satisfactory since I had to run the generator every second day or so to maintain a charge. Besides the smell and noise, there was the constant need for refueling. Several times during the winter I experienced the advantage being off-grid when storms knocked out the local power to my neighbours across the lake. My humble little system was totally unaffected. It was oddly satisfying to be the only house with electric power on the lake.
In the spring I installed a small solar electric system. It consists of four 180 Watt Kyocera solar panels (for a total of 720 Watts of power), a Xantrex inverter 'true sine' inverter and a Xantrex MPPT charge controller. This little system is working great for me. So far, I am completely happy - I haven't run the generator since I installed the inverter - and that was to test to automatic switch-over feature. It is a fantastic feeling to know that I have all the renewable power I need. Lately, by 10 or 11 am my batteries are back at full charge. This is a good sign since the available winter sunlight is so much less than the summer sunlight. I hope this system will be enough to get me through the fall and winter. I guess I should add that since I cook with propane and heat with wood (with a backup propane wall-mounted furnace) my present electrical requirements are pretty low. This will change once the well pump and septic pump are installed. I'll keep monitoring my use and see how it goes.
The search for a suitable house design continues. My biggest struggle is deciding on a suitable design and deciding how 'green' to go. Since I hope to stay off grid, I will require a very efficient design that takes maximum advantage of winter solar heat gain and has maximum insulation to retain whatever heat I produce. And of course, there are specific code requirements for building on lake. I'll post my design when I make my decision.
A winter photo. This was taken at sunset on the winter Solstice 2007. It shows the view out my bedroom window. The snow-covered 'lump' in the center of the photo is my boat.